Camden Coffee House, Balham

8 Aug

Edit 16/08/12: I have had to amend my score, as I went in to Camden Coffee House this morning and there were four people in the queue. Sunni was behind the counter and could remember everyone’s regular order. He even remembered PD’s, despite the fact that he’d not been in for about two months. That my friends, is attention to detail, and in my view, fantastic service. I’ve not experienced that in a cafe in a very, very long time, especially one in London. The coffee was faultless (made by Sunni on this occasion), beans still very reasonably priced, and the conversation was friendly and familiar. Yes, the music was still there, but it was much less overbearing this time!  

Original post:

I was around about Tooting and Balham today doing a bit of stocking up for my latest wedding cake adventures, so I thought I’d rest my weary feet and have a coffee at Camden Coffee House at about 3pm. PD and I have been here a couple of times previously and enjoyed the coffee, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to rustle up another review.

I want to start off by saying the service here is always really, really friendly. Sunni is always happy to have a chat, and is incredibly personable. The barista behind the counter I met today was equally lovely, attentive, quick working and very polite. I wanted to start off on a good note. I’m not so good at being critical, and I really do hate to be a bit negative because the people in here are such absolute sweethearts, but if I’m going to to this properly, I do need to be honest. Deep breath.

Here goes.

The atmosphere in there today was unfortunately not to my taste – there was some really overbearing dubsteppy/house music which really made me unable to concentrate on anything and frankly gave me quite a headache. I’m very sure that they would have changed it if I had asked them to, they are the type of people who do care a lot about their customers, but I’ve not yet gained enough courage to be that person who complains about things in cafes or restaurants. Sadly it really did not go well with the nice relaxing cafe ideal I had in mind for settling down with my book and enjoying my coffee. In fact, I didn’t even end up opening my book. I must say though, that the last time I went in with PD the music was a lot more laid back and relaxing – so perhaps it was just a one off.  I’m not entirely sure what audience they are going for; given the location (right next to the tube/train station) and the free wi-fi, I think it has inevitably become somewhat of a stop-in for commuters. Indeed, the two-three people sat in the coffee shop today were businessmen, but a number of non-suits in summer clothes (including two children) did also pop in for a take-out coffee and some ice cream. There are about five tables, each able to sit two to three people, so I do wonder whether they may be focusing on gaining business from more of the take-out options?

Anyway, on to the coffee (and a more positive note!). Camden Coffee House use ‘Has Bean’ coffee, using the Blake espresso blend. Today I went for another flat white (skinny version), through which the flavour boldly stood up to the challenge. It was rich and intense, with hints of dried fruit, toffee apples and a very dark chocolatey aftertaste. It was almost a little too much for me as a flat white, so I’d be inclined to try it as a latte next time. The coffee was well made, beautifully presented, and a good temperature – although I do wonder whether the milk had been just that tad over heated as it was ever so slightly losing a bit of smoothness (I’m talking a matter of seconds). On the other hand, I had chosen a skinny version which makes it a lot more difficult to make the milk as smooth as the non-skinnies. Camden Coffee House also sells the same beans by the bag, and it’s really quite reasonable at £4 per 250g bag (they do bigger bags as well which work out even cheaper), and PD often buys his beans here.

I had a glance at the food menu and the prices are incredibly reasonable, starting off at £1.60 for a toasted bagel and £2.25 for a sandwich/wrap. Drinks were also very reasonably priced, ranging from £1.30-3.50.

Overall, good coffee, fantastic service, comfortable place to perch but unfortunately awful music today! I do wish that the music had been different, it really sets the backdrop for the atmosphere and just didn’t work today. Great option if you need a quick coffee, especially when you’re about to jump on the tube or if you’re on your way home (also if you need a quick bite to eat, their pastries and cakes are very reasonably priced starting at only .50p). Next time I’ll be going for the latte instead of the flat white.

Score: 8/10 – good coffee, the service is always impeccable, sociable and kind and the pricing is very reasonable. Unfortunately the music let the atmosphere down today – if it had been more relaxing I would have been more generous with my score. There are also no alternative bean options which could offer a bit more variety.

Price range: £1.30-3.50 for drinks, pastries from 0.50p and sandwiches from £2.25.

Would I go back? Yes.


2 Responses to “Camden Coffee House, Balham”

  1. Sunni August 12, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Thanks for your review.. It is important to here my customers direct feedback..
    Wish you told us at the time as we would have immediately changed the music. As everyone knows we try to accommodate for all our customers from young professionals to families and I’m disappointed we haven’t on this occasion. Will definitely review our music selection and I’m glad you have highlighted this.
    Please do pop in when you’re next around would love to make you a fw/latte on us.
    See you soon

    • DrinksAndNibbles August 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to read and reply Sunni, it’s refreshing to see a cafe so focused on customer service (and quality coffee!). I’m looking forward to my next trip already.

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